The fishing town of Cordova, Alaska has seen 18 feet of snow this winter, and with the town of 2,239 residents (23% of them Native) buried in the white stuff, Mayor Jim Kallendar declared a state of emergency on Sunday and called in the National Guard.
The city’s website, CityofCordova.net, displays periodic updates on “Snowpocalypse 2012,” and the catchy nickname isn’t entirely hyperbole. According to a CBS news report, the accumulation is three times the average for the area; a resident says there is “more snow in Cordova than people and shovels to deal with it.”
An Associated Press dispatch reports that the snow has caused the collapse or partial collapse of at least three buildings and has rendered six homes “severely stressed.” There have been no reported injuries.
Dealing with the snow is part of the difficulty being faced by Cordovans; the other serious problem is that the town is very hard to reach at the moment. The only ways in are by boat and plane, and the airport has been largely out of commission due to bad weather. Additionally, the Copper River Highway, a 12-mile road that links the town to the airport, was closed due to an avalanche. The 70 National Guard members who arrived on Sunday did so by ferry.
The unusually harsh storms have dumped snow all over Southcentral Alaska. Valdez, located about 60 miles north of Cordova, is likely to eclipse its all-time record seasonal accumulation of 560 inches, according to the Anchorage Daily News, and Anchorage itself has been challenged to keep the streets clear and maintain basic services. According to an earlier article in the Anchorage Daily News, the city saw just six days without measurable snowfall in all of December.
Meanwhile, 700 miles to the northwest of Cordova, a different drama is unfolding for icebound Nome. The community faces a serious shortage of gasoline, caused due to a fall shipment being delayed and then canceled because of ice. A shipment is on the way, but it’s slow and careful going: With the Coast Guard icebreaker Healy cutting through three feet of ice, a Russian tanker loaded with 1.3 million gallons of petroleum products plods on behind it at a speed of between two and five miles per hour. The population of Nome is roughly half Native.
For an update on the tanker’s progress toward Nome, see “Russian Tanker Within 100 Miles of Nome”.